Unister Portals

Investments to regain market leadership

The new owner of former Unister portals Ab-in-den-Urlaub.de and Fluege.de will invest in marketing activities to get the German travel websites back on the growth path.

January 11, 2017
Jaroslaw Czernek is Investment Partner at Rockaway Capital and Chairman at Invia.
Photo: Rockaway

Czech investment company Rockaway Capital bought the travel portals of the insolvent German e-commerce group, with some 520 employees, for about €75 – 80 million, according to fvw information. The transaction, which is due to be completed as of January 31, 2017, covers all the relevant assets of Unister Travel, including ab-in-den-urlaub.de, fluege.de, urlaubstours.de, reisen.de, billigfluege.de, reisegeier.de, hotelreservierung.de and TravelViva, but not its debts or the Unister brand-name.

Rockaway manager Jaroslaw Czernek told fvw that the Czech investor will spend more to enable the portals to regain their former position and will also focus on transparent corporate governance. The Unister travel portals generated sales of about €1.9 billion in 2015 but revenues dropped by more than 50% following the group’s insolvency in summer 2016, according to German travel industry sources.

“We are looking at growth, so we will put a focus on marketing in particular,” Czernek said. The portals will “expand cooperation with business partners” and strengthen their brands in order to regain a leading position in the German travel market, he explained.

Questioned about the controversial former business practices of Unister Travel, Czernek stressed that Rockaway Capital is “a professional and responsible investor”, while its Central European OTA business Invia “is known for transparency, a good relationship with business partners and high customer satisfaction”. This would also be the approach in Germany. “We will introduce a new structure for compliance and corporate governance,” he announced.

Czernek praised the “very competent” management team in Leipzig. In future, Stephan Wiese will manage the package holiday business (ab-in-den-urlaub.de), Balint Gyemant the flight sales business (fluege.de) and Nikolas Pauseback the tour operator Urlaubstours.

Rockaway has invested about $400 million to build up a portfolio of some 20 e-commerce and internet companies, including the acquisition in February 2016 of Invia for €76 million. Invia, described as the largest online travel agency in Central Europe, had turnover of €250 million and some 500,000 customers in 2015.

The Unister deal was jointly financed by its Chinese investment partner China Energy Company (CEFC), which is the seventh-largest privately-owned company in China with turnover of about €36 billion, mostly from the energy and financial sectors.

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